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Are Montessori children successful later in life?

Montessori children are well prepared for later life academically, socially, and emotionally as they graduate out of the environment.  In addition to scoring well on standardized tests, Montessori children are ranked above average on such criteria as following directions, turning in work on time, listening attentively, using basic skills, showing responsibility, asking provocative questions, showing enthusiasm for learning, and adapting to new situations. Education of character is considered equally with academic education, children learning to take care of themselves, their environment, each other – cooking, cleaning, building, gardening, moving gracefully, speaking politely, being considerate and helpful, doing social work in the community, etc.

The children develop into confident individuals because their confidence is not built on whether they were the best in the class, but on positive and complete learning through exercising to ‘their’ best always.

How do children who go to a Montessori school transition to a mainstream school once? Is it difficult for them to adjust?

The Montessori curriculum offers a deep and rich learning experience for the children to be well grounded in a variety of subjects including language, communication, mathematics, geography, science and art. They have good social skills, cope with changes positively and have learnt to solve problems pro-actively.  The practical life work builds concentration and co-ordination in the child while sensorial activities refines the senses where he is able to be more aware of his environment and make better choices.  Therefore, adaptability to a new environment such as a mainstream school is something they are very well equipped for.  Having said that, it is quite normal for some children to feel a bit perplexed with the conventional methods adopted or may be a bit bored but he/she adapts quite successfully.

How can Montessori teachers meet the needs of so many different children?

As parents know their own children’s learning styles and temperaments, Montessori teachers, too, develop this sense of each child’s uniqueness by spending time individually with the children and their parents.

The teachers have developed a keen sense of observation and know what to look for while closely monitoring their students’ progress. They present lessons either individually or to small groups of children in a very crisp and clear way. The goal is to give the children just enough to capture their attention and spark their interest, intriguing them enough that they will come back on their own to work with the learning materials. And since they normally work with each child for two or three years, they get to know their students’ strengths and weaknesses, interests, and personalities extremely well.

Are the children in a Montessori environment allowed complete freedom?

Children in a Montessori environment are offered a limited range of choices within which they are free to make decisions and act upon without posing hindrances in the environment. Typically, the child is allowed 

  • To move around but not encroach on other children’s workspaces.
  • To speak but not to anyone who is working.
  • The choice to work or not to work.
  • To observe others while they work.
  • To choose any activity they want within what has been presented to them.
  • To stop an activity when they wish to but ensure that that material is ready to be used next by another child.

Thus the freedom in the class comes with responsibility to abide by the etiquette laid down in the environment.

If children work at their own pace, don’t they fall behind?

Although students are free to work at their own pace, they’re not going at it alone. The Montessori teacher closely observes each child and provides materials and activities that advance his learning by building on skills and knowledge already gained. This gentle guidance helps him master the challenge at hand—and protects him from moving on before he’s ready, which is what actually causes children to “fall behind.”

Why are the hours in a Montessori school not divided into periods for each subject? Does every subject not have to be covered and completed systematically?

Dr. Maria Montessori found that children as young as three who have been in a Montessori classroom for just a few months choose to be productive and take up challenging work. They are able to focus on the task at hand, take it to completion, rest for a bit without interrupting others and repeat the process having redirected himself to a new activity.  She noted that for this to happen, a minimum of three hours of uninterrupted classroom time are essential. Students who are able to complete three hour work cycles feel calmer and richer with a sense of accomplishment and are motivated to take up more work.  This process is at the core of transforming the child’s consciousness thereby facilitating their development into responsible, intelligent individuals. Such levels of authentic cognitive and personal development cannot happen in 45-minute / 1 hr “periods” as allocated for subjects in the conventional systems.

Children who know they will soon be interrupted choose unchallenging “busywork” at best, and at worst become nuisances to their peers. Even more tragic are children who don’t know an interruption is coming; they choose demanding work, become engrossed, and are understandably upset when the disruption takes place.

Almost all areas of learning may be used by the children at any one point of time. A child may choose to do one activity at one time, complete it and then may choose an entirely different activity to do next. This way the child chooses whatever area of work he feels inclined to work on in any given day. That choice makes him willingly choose all work.  The teacher is always available to direct the child’s choices in order that he may willingly choose activities from all areas of study.

Why do Montessori classrooms not have rows of desks like regular classrooms? Where does the teacher stand?

The clearly delineated areas and arrangement of a Montessori classroom are so designed to keep in line with the natural learning principles inculcated by Dr.Montessori. Rather than putting the teacher at the focal point of the class, with children depending on her for information, the Montessori classroom literally provides a child-centered approach. Children work at tables or on floor mats where they can spread out their materials, and the teacher goes around the room, giving lessons or helping resolve issues as they arise. The tables and floor mats also serve as clearly defined workspaces which help the children concentrate on their own work, provide protection for the materials and the children, and prevent infringement on others’ workspaces.

How will the school let me know of my child’s progress or areas of concern if there is no system of grading assessment, rewards/punishments?

The teacher, through extensive observation and record-keeping, plans individual projects to enable each child to learn what he needs in order to improve.

There are no grades, or other forms of reward or punishment. The test of whether or not the system is working lies in the accomplishment and behavior of the children, their happiness, maturity, kindness, and love of learning and level of work.

Meetings will be scheduled with parents at periodic intervals to keep them informed of the child’s progress and suggestions provided to the parents to help the child help himself and apply what he has learnt in the classroom outside of school. The parents are allowed to take their child’s work and compile it for their portfolios which then could be used later when transferring to the mainstream schools.

Why are there no ranks/grades in Montessori education? Is Montessori opposed to competition?

The current convention of grading children is mostly based on their ability to replicate text book material in examinations and does not offer a true measure of their understanding and ability to apply concepts learnt. In the Montessori system the child gets to observe and collaborate with his peers, work at his own pace and work repeatedly with the material till he develops a complete understanding of the concept the material presents. By current convention a “fail” grade or mark stamps the child with the label of incompetency and can severely demotivate him from trying any further (not to mention the additional stress of other social repercussions ).  In the absence of such grading, the Montessori system encourages the child to willingly make repeated attempts at mastering the material offering him ample space to make mistakes and accept that mistakes are an essential component of successful learning. Before long, they realize that few things in life come without effort, and they are free to try again without any fear or embarrassment

By assigning ranks within classes, schools challenge children to outdo one another. The unnecessary stress of the relative performance within the class impedes the child’s deep learning and goes against his natural pace of development. This is not to say that the Montessori system discourages competition.  It in fact develops a healthy competitive spirit where the children learn to give their best irrespective of the outcome by giving them the opportunity to focus completely on the process rather than the result.

Is Montessori good for children with learning disabilities or special needs?

The multi sensory, interactive environment in the Montessori classroom is the perfect setting for learning and there is a high degree of stimulation that keeps the children highly involved with their learning. In many cases, children with mild physical handicaps or learning disabilities do very well in a Montessori classroom setting. Every child is unique with his/her own learning style, areas of special gifts and some areas that can be considered challenging. Montessori education is designed to allow for differences. Each child learns at her own pace and will be ready for any given lesson in her own time and not on the teacher’s schedule of lessons. This provides flexibility for the varied learning styles of children to adapt to the environment comfortably. No child is ahead or behind in their “schedule” to learn any one subject.

It is a classroom modeled as a community where children in various stages of development learn from each other, with the younger children learning by observing / interacting with older children and older children benefiting by instructing / mentoring younger children. This system thus builds tolerance in children who experience that a society is made of all kinds of people with varied abilities (or disabilities) and that everyone is equal.

Does the child have to be 3 yrs old to join a Primary Montessori school?

Montessori classrooms are made with grouping of children of different ages and abilities in a 3 year span. We do take children from 2years 6months onward as well. This is primarily because the child’s sensitivities for order, language etc. begin to develop when they are about 2 yrs old (even though it varies with each child but not by much). Having them in a Montessori set up around the age of 2.5 is highly beneficial because it allows them to get accustomed to the classroom environment and the structured methods adopted are most likely to appeal to their sensitivities and augment their development process.

What is the advantage of having a mixed-age classroom?

Montessori classes are organized to encompass a three-year age span, which allows younger students the stimulation of older children and learn from them. The older children benefit by being role models and leaders of the classroom community.

Children normally stay in the same class for three years. With two-thirds of the class normally returning each year, the classroom culture tends to remain quite stable. Instead of graduating and moving to a new class each year, working in the same environment for three years allows students to develop a strong sense of community with their classmates and teachers.

How is the Montessori system different from conventional education?

Conventional systems revolve around teachers lecturing to children and the latter passively taking in information exercising mostly the auditory senses. This can sometimes lead to only a superficial understanding of the material taught without grasping its underlying principles.

Children in Montessori classes are not required to sit and listen to a teacher talk to them as a group, but are engaged in individual or group activities of their own. They learn at their own, individual pace and according to their own choice of activities offered in the prepared environment. Textbooks and ‘homework’ are redundant since concepts are deeply ingrained through working with the scientifically designed materials. The teacher in the Montessori environment plays a pivotal role in bringing together the child and the learning through the specifically designed materials at the appropriate time considering the development pattern exhibited by the child. The materials for children of age six and under in Montessori education facilitate learning through all five senses and not just through listening or reading. Learning then becomes an exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, and a love of learning.

Is Montessori Education for all children?

A very strong Yes. The socio-economic backgrounds/ ethnicity of the child or her parents are of no importance in Montessori education. Likewise, an exceptionally gifted child will benefit as much from the classroom community and the scientifically designed materials, as a child with developmental delays or emotional and physical disabilities.